DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — A new tool for a local search and rescue team helped find two missing hikers and a dog near Devil’s Head trail on Thursday evening.
The Douglas County Search and Rescue team spotted the hikers by using a drone. The UAV project was launched in the spring, and after field training with pilots, the tool proved to be beneficial the first few times it was put to use.
After hiking around the Devil’s Head trail for several hours, two men and their dog found themselves lost after mistakenly leaving the trail. They were able to dial 911 with limited cell service.
Douglas County Search and Rescue volunteer teams responded to the area at approximately 4:15 p.m. to search for the hikers and their dog.
Just after 6 p.m., the drone team made visual contact with the lost hikers. A search team on foot then made contact with the duo shortly after.
“Instead of an all-night search, we were done in about four hours,” incident commander Bruce Fosdick said.
Fosdick, who has been with the search and rescue team since 1966, said times have changed.
“Fifty years ago, basically everything was done by a group lined up in a straight line and just plodding through a field,” he said. “Now, scientifically we try to plot out a lot more where the subject is.
“We use a lot of different assets. Dogs, drones, helicopters. We try to do a lot more with a lot less people and try to get it done a lot quicker.”
The new tool is also a lot more budget friendly for a team that is full of volunteers.
“If you look at an aircraft, they’re pretty expensive,” Fosdick said. “If I bring in a helicopter, then we’re talking $1,000 to $2,000 an hour to fly. We’re all volunteers. We don’t have a budget like that.”
The Douglas County Search and Rescue team is funded primarily on donations. Every rescue they make is free of charge.